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Everything Tony Vitello Said After Tennessee Lost Against Lipscomb

Tony Vitello against Oklahoma in Arlington // Photo via UT Athletics

Tennessee baseball dropped its first midweek game of the season on Tuesday night when Lipscomb came to Knoxville and knocked off the Vols 9-6 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium

After the loss, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello discussed what went wrong for a few bullpen pitchers, the three-game slump for the offense and much more. Here’s everything Vitello said postgame.

More From RTI: What To Know About Tennessee’s Loss Against Lipscomb

On the bullpen allowing eight earned runs on eight hits

“There’s a couple pitches where we’re ahead in the count where guys didn’t execute. But some guys that swung the bat well for them. I don’t think we ever had a big inning where there was more than two runs, but there certainly was a lot of bleeding that never got stopped and if anything, just need to make better decisions on my end on who’s where, who’s coming out, who goes in at a certain time. And maybe if that is managed a little bit better, we have more success against an experienced lineup that’s got pretty good numbers power wise coming in and now they’ve added to it.

“But no one glaring issue. I think there’s been times where the offense feels like things are generous on the other side and yet, you don’t see any complaints from the other side because maybe we haven’t taken advantage of that, if that’s the fairest or best way to say that. So maybe they could have observed what’s going on in the game a little bit.”

On the offense being in a bit of a slump over the last three games

“I think repeated mistakes, whether it be a guy going three at-bats in a row kind of making the same mistake. Whether it’s out front against a certain pitcher, or chasing up against a certain pitcher, and then with runners in scoring position,  maybe just not having a specific plan. I’m saying it from my standpoint and they have offensive meetings out there in the outfield, but we’re kind of at the point in the season where you can’t just get up there and whale away and hope good things happen. You gotta have a specific plan whether it’s moving a runner over or just something you’re trying to get done. And a lot of times when you’re just trying to get the small thing done, you kind of get the big package or the pleasant surprise so to speak.”

On outfielder Colby Backus receiving more playing time of late

“He’s just kept forging ahead. Always working, always ready and then when he’s got out there, he’s had good presence in the box. He’s certainly a good baserunner and made some good plays as he did defensively when we were on the road, so all of that has contributed to opportunities and he’s made the most of them.

“Maybe a different deal there if we leave him in there and go with a little matchup, but if you looked at the numbers the way they worked out tonight compared to the matchups, it kind of showed you can throw them out the window. Sometimes those are a little overrated when you’re dealing with basically kids.”

On Nate Snead’s outing

“Really good. He put in some extra work with Frank [Anderson] – I just mentioned to John – he’s been out there often the last two weeks, but he hasn’t been taxed at all. None of those outings have been lengthy, and earlier in the year, his pitch count was built up to where essentially he could go close to 100 pitches for you. So I think it’s good for him to keep adding experience, adding reps, working on things on the days in between, because he hasn’t been taxed, so I think he’s in a good position to make a run here as we go down the home stretch of the season. He’s kind of been involved as much as you possibly can, but again, I don’t think he’s been taxed where his best bullets aren’t ahead of him.”

On if he was working on anything in specific with Frank

“I watched the video. I was on the road, so all I did was watch the Hudl video. I spoke with those guys a little bit, but I honestly don’t know. Maybe I should educate myself.”

On if he tells the team anything specific to make sure the loss doesn’t carry into the weekend

“It’s going to carry into the weekend because it’s too quick. If you’re responsible, you need to pack tonight, because you got nutrition, school to some extent for guys, lifting, so you got all this stuff going on. So while you’re packing, or even just why you’re taking your jersey off, there should be some level of frustration. So how do you want to use it? I think it’s a little bit different if you play Tuesday to Friday as far as carry over goes, or if we were able to practice on our own field tomorrow and have a conversation that way. But it’s go-time tomorrow afternoon. Jump on that plane, and you think you’re playing a hungry team whose record doesn’t state the talent they have (Lipscomb)? Wait til you see this weekend.”

On if the leadership in the dugout gives him confidence the loss will be flushed

“Yeah, they’re going to need to. That’s the fun thing about baseball in our league. You consistently have challenges that are new ones, and they pop up every day. So I have complete confidence in those guys handling all kinds of stuff, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. It was our first Thursday–Saturday series [last weekend], and our guys handled it with a bang. We started out the series Thursday night with our best game of the weekend. But that also means you have your first Sunday to do whatever you want to do. Go to a hockey game or do whatever. So, does that throw you out of your Monday routine? And does that bleed into Tuesday where you don’t get some things done and maybe you don’t show up to the park with the similar focus that you would when you’re in that routine. So, the leadership is there. There’s no question. But the execution, that’s an everyday challenge.”

On what’s gone wrong for Andrew Behnke his last few outings

“He’s kind of cutting the ball. Internally, I don’t have any answers for you. I know they’ve had discussions. You don’t see a guy that’s rattled or nervous or moving faster or changing routines or things like that but certainly the crispness of the pitches are not the same and there’s often been balls cut out of the zone. Maybe too much speaking by me because we talk about adding weapons as the season goes on and guys improving, there needs to be a reset button there and get back to what he was doing when he was a very valuable asset out of the bullpen.”

On the difference in a loss like this waking the team up or leading to guys losing confidence

“It’s pay attention. It’s kind of what I was talking about— I don’t have any answers on the offensive end that are real specific, but if a guy is consistently getting our guys out the same way, don’t get out that way. To say go get a hit— these three guys didn’t get a hit, go get a hit— that’s so unreasonable (that) it’s unbelievable. But to say make sure you have an approach that’s an adjustment to what’s going on that’s negative is very realistic. So as far as tonight is concerned, it should be a painful experience. The food shouldn’t taste as good afterwards. It’s not as enjoyable to talk to your family or friends out here and not as fun to pack and get all geeked up about the trip ahead. There’s really just paying attention to what’s going on. There’s certain things that led up to the game and I’ve got my theories but the players could put it down on paper better than I can because they’re around each other from Saturday afternoon to the final out of this game and what needs to be adjusted individually and what needs to be adjusted as a team. Again, pointing it out should be relatively easy but the execution is kind of up to individuals and how important is it to you.”

On what he’s seen from Florida

“Cags [Jac Caglianone] is so physical and big. He does it on both sides of the ball for them. I don’t know enough to say this with complete confidence, but you can guesstimate that a lot revolves around him. I’m familiar with a few of their guys too who have been in the lineup. The biggest thing is – I’ve seen some of the arms but I’m not in a spot to where I can speak intelligently enough about this guy’s pitch or that guy’s pitch – but, there is an awful lot of talent sitting here in comparison to the record. People want to know who our biggest rival is and what is going to be the biggest series of the year. You’re kind of wasting your time looking at that. Whatever is right in front of you and this thing is right in front of us and now it follows a less than quality effort tonight. It’s the challenge that is right in front of us.”

On Kavares Tears defensively being improved

“He’s entirely different, starting with always having a good arm but controlling it now. Really being able to do different things with it. His body is completely changed physically, which has allowed him to cover more range in the outfield and also stay healthier. Last year, he was healthy at the end of the year, but we just kind of went with what we had. It kind of interrupted his progress during the year. His reads on ball and being comfortable in all the positions. I was over there when he was playing against [Blade] Tidwell and he’s playing first base. In high school, you just don’t get that much experience or coaching or portions out there. He has made the most of them and become a real positive asset out here in the outfield for us.”

On how much being familiar with the stadium and environment can help a team 

“It’s helpful that you know the stadium and kind of know what it’s going to look like because you can start visualizing what adjustments you want to take from the lead up to this and the duration of it. You’ve got a picture clear perception of what they will look like and how they will play – their style. That’s the one thing about the consistency of coaching staffs. It’s great. It’s a big bonus for us. Then you can kind of start to stereotype – this coaching staff has been here and while and this is how hey do things. These are the problems they are going to present. I think it just helps out guys have a vision. That probably starts with the travel, the practice and then beginning of game one. Once the series starts, all heck breaks loose and you’re going to have to make adjustments on the fly. You’re going to have to handle situations that are uncomfortable.”

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